By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team narrowly beat the Lakers of Mid-Michigan Community College inside the Gordon Hunsberger Arena on Feb. 26, 59-56. Their record is now 2-1.
After suffering their first loss of the season on Tuesday, Feb. 23, on the road to the Chargers of Ancilla College, the Raiders looked to their defense to steady the ship.
“I’m really happy with our defense,” said Jeff Bauer, GRCC’s men’s head basketball coach. “They’re a good, explosive, offensive team. They usually average (in the) high 80s-90s. (Mid-Michigan) beat Muskegon by 20, we beat them by 10. Not to compare opponents, but they had like 90 some odd points, so our defense was really, really good to hold them under 60, to hold them under 70 is a feat and we just did a really good job.”
As the first half got underway it was apparent that defense was going to play a large role in this game. Throughout the first two and a half minutes, neither team was able to convert a scoring opportunity. Mid-Michigan opened the scoring and quickly established a 7-3 lead on the Raiders.
However, the Mid-Michigan lead would quickly evaporate as GRCC’s offense came to life. Freshman Dasani Darnell, who hadn’t seen much playing time this season, was subbed into the game by Bauer. He quickly showed his talent as he got the ball in the paint, and overpowered the Laker defense for a basket, and gave GRCC a spark.
“I just waited my time, cause I knew my time was coming, so I just waited for it,” said Darnell, to The Collegiate after the game. “When it came, I took the opportunity and built on it.”
Darnell continued his dominance in the paint, finishing with 10 points in the half. Sophomore Malik Clincy, sophomore Isaac Anderson and sophomore Darien Banks also pitched in to help frustrate the Lakers defense and propel GRCC ahead of Mid-Michigan by eight points as the first half came to a close.
Mid-Michigan began the second half locked in on defense as they held GRCC scoreless for the first five minutes of the half. Although the Raiders weren’t able to convert on the offensive end, and their lead shrank down to two points. It remained intact, however, as the Raiders defense locked down on the Lakers’ shooters.
GRCC’s offense woke up back up, as Clincy and sophomore Chandler Collins pushed the lead to 12 points. Just as it seemed the Raiders were going to coast to a victory, Laker freshman Noah Pruitt found his shot from the 3-point line. The large Raider lead quickly shrunk to one point in the final seconds of the game.
In an attempt to push the game into overtime, the Lakers sent Clincy to the free-throw line, where he made back-to-back shots to give the Raiders a three-point lead, 59-56, as time expired.
Pruitt of the Lakers led all players in scoring, finishing the game with 19 points.
Clincy led the Raiders scoring efforts, the contest finishing with 16 points, as well as 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists. GRCC also received contributions from Darnell (12 points and 5 rebounds) who was named Raiders player of the game, Collins (10 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal), Anderson (8 points, 15 rebounds and 2 steals), Banks (5 points and 4 rebounds) and sophomore Richard Major (5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists).
After the game, Coach Bauer had nothing but praise for the mentality that Darnell brings to the team.
“He’s such a good kid, such a good worker,” said Bauer. “College basketball is tough, because you’ve got 15 or 16 guys you start with, and obviously not everyone’s going to play. Despite not getting a lot of playing time he’s kept a good attitude, he’s prepared himself. I think it just came down to, and this might have won us the game, his positive attitude, cause a lot of guys in his shoes, getting the time he got, which might have been a total of two minutes in two games, would have soured out a bit. He didn’t do that, he just stayed ready.”
Seeing Darnell work every day in practice, Clincy wasn’t surprised he found his stride on Friday night.
“In the second game against Ancilla, he didn’t play a lot but didn’t get down on himself,” said Clincy. “He came in today and played his ass off.”
Now the Raiders will head to Flint to face off against the nationally-ranked Bears of Mott Community College on Wednesday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. This will be the third matchup against a team ranked in the National Junior College Athletic Association polls. You can catch the game on the Mott CC Youtube channel.
“Next week, I think we’re to the point where you know you don’t fear your opponent,” said Bauer. “I know Mott is traditionally good, (Coach Schmidt) does a good job over there. So it’s going to be a huge monumental challenge, but I hope we’re up to the task and I think we will be.”